Chicken Fences: Chicken Wire Vs. Hardware Cloth

Fencing Tips for Chicken Pens and Runs

Reading Time: 4 minutes


If it’s called chicken wire, it must be for chickens, right? Chicken wire is widely recognized as the hexagon shaped welded wire, commonly used on farms for various fencing needs, including for chicken fences.

In the blog, Bytes Daily, Otto wrote a little explanation of chicken wire.

“Chicken wire was invented in 1844 by British ironmonger Charles Barnard. He developed it for his father, a farmer, the manufacturing process being based on cloth-weaving machines. Apparently, the town of Norwich, where Barnard Junior had his business, had a plentiful supply of cloth weaving machines.”

There are some instances where chicken wire is the perfect choice of wire, but when talking about securing your feathered friends in their chicken runs and coops, I do not recommend chicken wire. While it may keep a small flock of chickens in a set area, it is not very strong. Predators can easily move it out of their way, rip it or tear it open to gain access to your chickens or other small vulnerable livestock. It is similar to cloth in that it is woven together.

In short, chicken wire is helpful in keeping chickens in, but not very good at keeping chicken predators out.

Where Chicken Wire Can Be Used Successfully

Chicken wire can be used to keep pullets separated from the older chickens inside the chicken pen and run.

Chicken wire might be a good barrier to keep the chickens out of your garden.

Chicken wire is also useful when temporarily plugging holes at the fence baseline to keep chickens in the run. Fold or crumple up a piece of chicken wire and stuff it into the hole. Cover with dirt and pack down. Make a more permanent fence repair as soon as possible.

Chicken coop wire is good for burying underground around the perimeter of the chicken coop and run to deter predators from digging into the coop. Most predators will only try to dig in for a short time. When they reach a wire barrier they will often quit digging and move to another spot.

Chicken wire is great for craft projects, building armatures for sculptures.


And Chicken wire makes a pretty interesting texture in a photograph.


What To Use Instead Of Chicken Wire for Chicken Fences

The preferred wire fencing for a secure chicken fence is called hardware cloth.  I am not sure how it got the name because it is much stronger than cloth!  It does not bend as easily and is welded making it a stronger product.

In our chicken coop, we have six windows. All of the windows are covered with hardware cloth with 1-inch square openings. Hardware cloth comes in various size mesh. The 1/4 inch size has a very tiny mesh and the 2 x 2 and 2 x 4 mesh would be too large of a mesh, allowing small predators to slip through. I personally recommend either the 1/2 inch or 1-inch mesh. Hardware cloth is most often a galvanized, welded metal product that is extremely durable.


Make sure you attach it to the window or vent openings using screws, and a sturdy board to hold it in place.

Chicken Fences

Safety Issues Of Chickens and Chicken Wire

When you find yourself asking what does a chicken coop need, you can generally cross chicken wire off that list. One reason to shy away from chicken wire is the possibility of it causing injury to your birds.

Since chicken wire is flimsy, it can break and fall apart leaving hazards for your chicken’s feet. Chicken wire should never be used as a flooring for a coop as it can contribute to foot injuries, including bumblefoot. Chicken toes can get caught in the wire and lead to broken toes. Small chicks can get caught in the mesh. Broken, worn wire sticking out can cause scratches, eye injuries and cuts.

Paying extra attention to overall coop safety and your chicken fences will pay off over and over, and keep your chickens healthy and happy.

Just getting started with backyard chickens? Here’s a free chicken coop plan for an easy 3×7 coop design that recommends 1/2” hardware wire.

Janet writes about simple homesteading and raising livestock on her blog Timber Creek Farm. Her new book, Chickens From Scratch, is available now through the Timber Creek Farm website and on the Countryside Network.


Originally published in 2015 and regularly vetted for accuracy. 

2 thoughts on “Chicken Fences: Chicken Wire Vs. Hardware Cloth”
  1. We bought poultry wire in 2016 from Tractor Supply for my chicken and duck pens, within 6 months it started rusting. Some of it had no ground contact and rusted. We had bought some 5 years earlier in 2011 at Lowe’s home improvement store for our garden and it just started rusting at the bottom this year. Right now all the stores up to 35 miles away are sold out of almost every type of fencing.

  2. I agree about the chicken wire. Not sure about the 1″ hardware cloth though. I’ve read that the smaller weasels can get through a ⅞” circular hole. 1″x 1″ is substantially bigger, not just width-wise, but because its a square not a circle. We have small weasels called ermines in our area, so the ½” cloth is the smallest holes I’m considering.

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